Supporting vulnerable populations in regional Colombia 2019

Supporting vulnerable populations in regional Colombia

BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities (BSC) and global non-profit organisation Global Communities launched the Colombia Resilience Project in 2013 to reduce poverty and increase the resilience of vulnerable population groups in Colombia.

The US$28.6 million, six-year project was focused on women, youth, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous peoples, and was referred to as ANDA (a Spanish term for ‘move forward’). It complemented community development initiatives through BHP’s assets. BHP previously owned and operated the Cerro Matoso nickel mine, located near the town of Montelíbano in the north of Colombia.

In partnership with local communities, the ANDA project assisted vulnerable populations in 43 rural communities within six municipalities in the Department of Córdoba and in the cities of Cartagena and Montería.

The project worked to address the root causes of poverty, which by the Colombian Government’s National Planning Department’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) defines by degree of deprivation in education, youth conditions, employment, health, and household conditions and accessible services.

ANDA created opportunities for people to break the cycle of poverty, increase resilience and self-determination and improve their quality of life by reducing the level of poverty by 8.8 points on the MPI.

Overall, 90 per cent of beneficiaries perceived an improvement in their quality of life, with the most significant improvements seen in female self-efficacy, community influence (i.e. with government, stakeholders), positive community sentiment, social infrastructure, and a 38 per cent increase in average monthly income was achieved.

BSC recognised the plight of internally displaced people living in poverty was a significant social issue in Colombia so ANDA focused on the poorest people in the areas, who primarily lived in rural locations.

At the beginning, a baseline assessment indicated on average 55.1 per cent of these people were ‘poor’ under the MPI. Following the six-year ANDA intervention, this was reduced to 39.9 per cent.

ANDA also strengthened the institutional capacity of six local governments and more than 60 civil society organisations working in the region to create sustainable and lasting change.

In the urban areas of Montería (Department of Córdoba) and Cartagena (Department of Bolívar), a market-driven approach was used to increase formal employment and support entrepreneurship. This included three initiatives that created business units for households that lacked other means of income, provided opportunities for unemployed people interested in learning a trade or skill, and strengthened the technical expertise and capacity of existing small businesses and organisations. These initiatives helped improve the quality of life of over 5,540 people in these urban areas, enabling families to accumulate assets and savings.

By designing a strategy focused on community development, institutional strengthening, income generation and environmental resilience, the ANDA project strengthened the social fabric of its target communities, increased access to basic services for more than 52,550 people and contributed to building self-determined and more resilient communities in Colombia.